The Sound of Cinema: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ transforms dancing and splashing into musical joy

Jan. 11, 2024, 11:05 p.m.

When I was first introduced to “Singin’ in the Rain” senior year of high school, the film captivated me. It was incredible to see the joy of music and dance transcend time, enthralling me and my classmates decades after its release in 1952. The mesmerizing musical numbers fit the narrative so well that it was unthinkable to me that the music wasn’t even written for the film.

“Singin’ in the Rain” is a jukebox musical, meaning its soundtrack is composed of songs that were released before the movie. Created at a pivotal point in the transition from silent to talking pictures, the movie’s craftsmanship has earned it a spot in film and media curricula to this day — including in Stanford’s FILMEDIA 4: “Introduction to Film Study.”

Among many wonderful cinematic elements, the featured songs lie at the heart of this work. They contribute to the magical quality of “Singin’ in the Rain” by giving it a vibrant tone, ultimately developing a different type of storytelling.

One highlight is the catchy, upbeat “Good Morning.” It is my favorite “Singin’ in the Rain” track, and it cemented this film as my all-time favorite. 

The vocals in this song are beautiful. All three actors showcase their singing abilities in the number, but Debbie Reynolds’s voice truly elevates this song. Her clear, soothing voice is always the main melody. The instrumentation is also quite diverse, with piano, violin, trumpets and triangles to emphasize downbeats all adding to the texture of the piece.

Reynolds and co-stars pump their hearts into the song to make it bewitching and catchy. The accompanying choreography — tap-dancing up steps, jumping onto benches and even rolling over a coach — makes this musical number feel truly one-of-a-kind, lively and joyful.

It is also no surprise that this amazing number is followed by the titular number, “Singin’ in the Rain,” featuring leading man Gene Kelly. This moment captures magic on celluloid. Kelly’s character, Don Lockwood, says goodnight to Kathy (Reynolds) and then dances about in the rain. It remains one of few scenes in cinematic history with eternal fame.

Kelly’s deep voice opens the song, cutting through the soft instrumental melody and providing it with a nice counterbalance before fading into the background. The serenity makes this scene feel unreal, like a dream sequence. (And it makes sense, considering we are witnessing Don Lockwood standing in pouring rain without an umbrella.) The scene and song masterfully convey Lockwood’s happiness — so profound that even rain can’t dampen his spirits.

From Kelly’s charming singing to the rhythm-mimicking tap dancing, the song breathes life into the scene. What would initially be a simple recording of Kelly splashing around becomes a mesmerizing show of coordination.

In fact, all of the actors had to perform their tap dancing numbers in the rain. After recording the movements on film, they had to record the audio of the tap dancing and overlay it with the film’s original sound for more clarity.

While all the songs work alongside each other like puzzle pieces, it’s “Good Morning” and “Singin’ in the Rain” that always bring a smile to my face, prompt me to sing along and brighten my day. The film’s general acceptance as one of the top movies of all time proves these numbers have brought smiles to countless more. 

“Singin’ in the Rain” sparked my love for film. It shows me how a film, or a musical, is truly capable of embedding itself in the hearts of viewers. This doesn’t mean the film is without faults. There are instances of sexist undertones and a background depiction of blackface. Some may argue that it’s just due to the social norms of the film’s time. 

Ultimately, there is true joy found in this film. Its flaws call into question for whom the joy was intended, but I encourage you to give this film a shot and let it grip you as it comes to life.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

Anthony Martinez Rosales is the vol. 265 Screen desk editor.

Login or create an account